Have you heard about smart meters?  Three million have already been installed in the UK, with plans to fit a total of 53 million of them into 30 million businesses and homes by 2020. Smart Energy GB (the national campaign promoting the rollout) has just launched a campaign to raise awareness on television.  Many concerns have been expressed about the £12 billion[3] programme, such as potential health and privacy implications, as well as doubts about the true benefits and cost. Over the course of this blog, BHESCo examines the pros and cons of this new technology, and asks if this enforced rollout is really in our national interest.

Benefits And Cost Concerns

The original idea for smart meters started in an EU mandate which said the rollout should only be undertaken by member states should it provide economic benefit. The rollout is funded by the consumer, as energy suppliers will pass on the cost through their bills, estimated at £500 per person. Last year, Smart Energy GB spent more than £15 million on its campaign to encourage the uptake of smart meters.  It is questionable whether funding for the campaign is providing value for money for the bill payer, compared with other energy investments. For example, the total amount spent on the FIT and RHI, has been capped to £75 million to £100 million per year, for the generation of clean, renewable energy to keep the lights on.

Smart meters send remote readings of your energy usage to your energy supplier, meaning people no longer have to submit meter readings or receive estimated bills. The benefit of accurate bills would be invaluable should the process be infallible, which unfortunately, it is not. The requirement for constant two-way transmission from the meter to the energy supplier is part of the cost of the service and will increase your energy bill, plus it is questionable whether any savings will be made from reductions in your energy consumption. The rollout makes it mandatory for communications service providers, like BT to provide 100% WAN coverage.  The cost of this coverage will be paid by the energy suppliers. BHESCo believes there is considerable question as to the cost benefit of the smart meter rollout programme to the consumer.  Smart meters are designed to smooth out peaks in demand by introducing “Time Of Use” tariffs.  This demand management process only works if the take up of Time Of Use tariffs is high.  The Daily Mail projects that the energy suppliers will charge more at peak times, meaning that electricity and gas used in the evenings could cost 99% more than at other times.[1]

smart energy As part of the national rollout you will get a smart gas meter, a smart electricity meter, a smart meter display and a communications hub.  The communications hub will link the system to a similar wireless network outside your home. According to Smart Energy GB these smart meters will give you more control over your energy use, help you understand your bills and allow you to see what the energy you use is costing.  They claim that smart meters will benefit Britain as a whole[2], and are just the first step in a major infrastructure upgrade that will total £100 billion of investment.  Supporters claim that smart meters will help make it easier to switch suppliers creating more transparency in the industry.

Health Concerns

The wireless radio wave frequency radiation emitted by the communications hub to the energy supplier, and from the energy meter to the smart meter display, have been identified as a potential health risk.  The type of radiation emitted by such devices is classified as a class 2b carcinogen by the World Health Organization.  A significant number of complaints[4] have been lodged with physicians in countries where smart meters have already been installed, ranging from problems falling asleep and staying asleep to chronic fatigue, headaches, migraines, vertigo, tinnitus, unhealthy blood pressure levels, concentration and memory problems, learning and behavioural disorders and a more frequent incidence of ADHD among children[5]. And humans aren’t the only species affected[6];  all of nature is damaged by radio wave frequency radiation. The most widely publicised harm has been experienced by bees (colony collapse), birds (dwindling numbers of migratory species) and trees (sudden oak death and ash die back). Unsurprisingly, such information about the health implications of smart meters has been ignored by Smart Energy GB in its promotional campaign.  In fact, the televised adverts don’t really say anything about what a smart meter actually is or does:

 

The ever-present challenge of making a clear cause and effect link between smart meter radiation and the impact on health means that it is wise to proceed with caution.  We need to admit that we do not have enough medical information to proceed with such a rollout and should wait until there is satisfactory evidence that the technology is safe.  Until this happens, it is better to limit the exposure of households to radiowave radiation. History has shown us the dangers of introducing new inventions without sufficient knowledge of health impacts, notable examples include the use of DDT, Thalidomide, X-ray, smoking, asbestos, heavy metals, and uranium exposure.  In all these cases, communities were exposed to new products before the science was completely understood.

Privacy Concerns

A central data and communications company has been established to manage the data called Smart DCC Ltd [7], who are regulated by OFGEM.

Smart DCC Ltd is responsible for the smart energy code.  Its officers are representatives from the large energy companies. There are no consumer groups like Citizens Advice on their management committee.  According to an investigative report done by the Daily Mail, smart meters could be used to spy on your home.  Data collected by the smart meter could be used by marketing companies to reveal how people consume their electricity and gas[8].  Privacy and data protection are important individual freedoms.  With Smart DCC Ltd being run by the large energy suppliers, there are issues concerning the confidentiality of our consumption data that have not yet been sufficiently safeguarded by regulation.

Conclusion

We believe that smart meters are the way forward for creating efficient consumption of local, distributed energy generation.  While BHESCo supports the use of smart meters in initiatives like Energy Local (http://www.energylocal.co.uk), we believe that the meters should be connected to fibre optic networks, where any potential health risks caused by wireless radio waves may be overcome, where participation is completely voluntary and where privacy is ensured through confidential, protected data networks.  The impacts of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation must be tested and understood before a rollout of this scale is undertaken. We are surprised that the programme is ignoring the health impacts of wireless smart meters entirely.  We also believe that £12 billion would be better spent on modifications to distribution networks, where there is no capacity to connect new local renewable energy generation.  This is prohibiting the growth of renewables, holding back economic resilience.

The solution is simple, however, more costly:  Using the UK’s fibre optic network to communicate the signal instead of the envisioned wireless network would   This could be rolled out in a smaller, more localised campaign, in conjunction with Energy Local campaigns.

[1] http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-3322658/The-great-smart-meter-rip-UK-energy-giants-use-devices-DOUBLE-cost-power-need-most.html

[2] https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/the-bigger-picture/about-the-rollout

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35894922 /

[4] http://stopsmartmeters.com.au/category/share-your-story/

[5] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmenergy/161/161.pdf

[6] http://freiburger-appell-2012.info/en/observations-findings.php?lang=EN and http://www.naturalscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/wfns_brochure_microwaves-bees_english.pdf

[7] http://www.smartdcc.co.uk

[8] (http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/could-smart-meters-be-used-to-spy-on-your-home-devices-could-be-used-to-create-honeypot-of-data-to-sell-onto-marketing-companies-privacy-campaigners-warn-mail-online/)

big energy saving Network

For the third year, BHESCo has been a champion for the Big Energy Saving Network, a national programme that aims to encourage people to save money on their energy bills by switching supplier or tariff.

It is important to review your energy tariff annually, comparing prices against the market to make sure that you’re not paying too much for your energy supply.  The idea is that by switching frequently, consumers can minimise the price they pay, forcing suppliers to keep prices low to retain their customers.

Unfortunately, the energy industry is plagued by inertia, and very few consumers exercise their right to switch annually, if indeed ever. Latest figures estimate that roughly 7 in 10 people are on an expensive standard tariff, paying on average £305 more than the cheapest tariffs available.

The goal of the Big Energy Saving Network is for Champions to go into their communities to engage consumers with their energy bills, demonstrating that there are many choices available and that great savings can be made by those who choose to switch.

As a BESN Champion, BHESCo was able to establish nearly 20 energy advice desks around the city, stretching all the way from Hangleton to Whitehawk and from Moulsecomb to the Lanes. Locations varied from universities to children’s centre’s, health surgeries to pubs, and even to the heart of the Council in Bartholomew House.

Since 2014, BHESCo has supported nearly 1,000 local residents to save an estimated £56,000 on their fuel bills. In addition, we’ve helped people to qualify for the Warm Home Discount, tackle debt to suppliers, and make their homes more energy efficient.

Being a part of the Big Energy Saving Network has given us a fantastic opportunity to get out into the community and meet the many wonderful people that make Brighton and Hove what it is. We are immensely thankful to every foodbank and community cafe that welcomed us through their doors, and we look forward to seeing all our new friends again when the next BESN starts in October 2017.

In the meantime, for impartial and expert advice on your energy bills, please email us at bills@bhesco.co.uk.

 

The Age of the Atom was to herald a new dawn in humanity’s quest for energy. Euphoric reports at the time declared that this revolutionary new energy source was so abundant it would be “too cheap to meter“. Our energy worries, we were assured, were over forever…

History of course, has shown none of this naive optimism to be true, and sadly will it prove the same for our current cabinet’s total reliance on nuclear power as the basis of energy policy.

Hinkley is expected to cost between £18-24 billion to construct, of which UK taxpayers are expected to subsidise a significant portion. To compound matters, a substantial share of the profits generated will leave the country due to the plant being owned by French and Chinese investors. Worse still, a future based on nuclear power will maintain the centralised energy system we have now, and let’s not even get started on the cost of clean up, transport security and waste disposal that future generations will thank us for…

Similarly, nuclear weapons nuclear protestare an expensive and dangerous consumer of taxpayer money, and BHESCo is steadfastly against the renewal of Britain’s Trident defence system. We were very proud to join Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn, and the thousands of protesters in Trafalgar Square to voice our opposition to this £100 billion so-called deterrent, and were profoundly moved to see that so many people shared our view of a nuke-free future.

BHESCo suggests that all money intended to be invested in new nuclear power stations or weapons be transferred to the production of clean, renewable energy. Imagine what we could build with £100 billion? This money could be invested in all manner of new and proven technologies as well as going towards an electricity grid that can handle the distributed energy system we need in order to create real energy security.

The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. It is time to say goodbye to our atomic past, and move toward a brighter, cleaner, and fairer future. We say No to Nuclear Power because this makes the most sense for the future inhabitants of our planet. We say No to Nuclear Power because it does not make sense for our country.

trident

 

Our government claims that we need fracking in order to provide long-term energy security. They are using fear to convince us that we need to drill beneath our homes and areas of outstanding natural beauty in order to ‘keep the lights on’. This is special interest politics in its most malicious and dangerous form.

Fracking makes zero economic sense for the taxpayer. Climate activist and author of The Winning of the Carbon War, Jeremy Leggett said that it costs $3 to buy $1 worth of gas produced by fracking companies in America.

Lessons from America

You don’t have to be George Osborne to understand that this is not a winning economic model for Britain. Fracking is creating uninhabitable ghost towns all along the Marcellus shale, ground-zero for fracking in Ohio. The water is not fit to drink, you can’t grow anything healthy in the soil, animals can no longer graze without ingesting toxins from the grass, and the air is not fit to breathe. There are reports of increasing numbers of people in the US and Australia who live around fracking sites who are becoming gravely ill.

Fracking also uses a lot of water. The State of California decided that there is no reasonable way of dumping the waste water from offshore drilling, so they decided to dump the 8 billion gallons of contaminated fracking water into the Pacific Ocean. This water becomes poisoned by harmful chemicals such as benzene and chlorine.  Fracking companies are not required to disclose the chemical composition of the fluids they use.

Hope Not Lost

We are living in an amazing time with incredible technological capabilities. Today in the UK, there are new business models being developed through partnerships between community energy groups, progressively thinking energy suppliers, renewable energy project developers, and local councils. These business models strive to create local energy generation to serve the communities where they are based, as was the case in the UK in the early 1900s.

For a small island nation the UK is lucky to have such an abundance of alternative energy sources available to us; we have Wind, Solar, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Tidal, Wave, and Anaerobic Digestion, to name a few. Additionally, we have new technologies that can improve the ways that we consume energy, like demand response systems, smart grids and energy efficiency measures.

Community Energy = Real Energy Security

BHESCo is part of a network of 20 Community Energy solar fieldgroups across Sussex and Kent that are devoted to creating local energy generation to provide REAL ENERGY SECURITY. We need to end the idea of short term thinking in our energy network and consider that energy generation projects can provide reliable energy sources for 25 to 30 years and longer.

We need to invest in our electricity grid to create the new distributed energy system that is needed to offer the taxpayer REAL ENERGY SECURITY. Fracking most certainly is not going to provide this in the long term, nor will it reduce prices for the 15,000 people in Brighton & Hove who cannot afford to heat their homes.

The current Government’s energy strategy makes no economic or environmental sense, and we say loud and clear No to Fracking! We want to leave behind a long-term legacy of clean, locally owned renewable energy that serves the community and preserves the environment.

 

Time to Act poster frontOn 19 November, at Wagner Hall in Brighton, BHESCo is hosting an event that is promising to be an inspiring evening of talks from environmental activists working to combat climate change on a local level.

Book your tickets now to attend this free event

Howard Johns, author of Energy Revolution will lead the discussion about the clean energy alternatives that can be developed through a community energy business model.

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement says about Energy Revolution: “Re-imagining our energy system offers the potential of a win-win-win future: low carbon energy, more resilient communities, vibrant local economies. What’s more, it’s possible and it’s already happening.  Howard Johns, founder of Southern Solar and OVESCo, paints a spellbinding picture of the revolution happening around us, and the part you could play in it.”

Telling stories of the change that’s already happening from around the world and drawing on two decades of his own unique experience, Howard Johns demonstrates how we can develop our own renewable energy projects to provide local energy and create a new fleet of businesses. He shows us how communities can build local energy solutions (renewable power stations that will be a new form of building society) where we come together to develop, finance and construct the infrastructure that we and future generations so desperately need. These new systems will create new jobs and businesses, reduce energy imports and create new local investment models.

7:00pm Doors open

7:05 Welcome and introduction – Kayla Ente

7:10 Short clip of Vicki Lesley’s film on Nuclear Power and Q&A

7:30 Howard Johns talks about community energy and its potential to transform the industry

8:00pm Will Cottrell, Chairman, Brighton Energy Co-operative

8:15pm Chris Tomlinson,  Project manager Rampion Wind farm

8:30pm Anthony Probert, Bioregional – One Plant Living

8:45pm Kayla Ente, Founder, BHESCo

9:00 Q&A

 


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